EghtesadOnline: Less than three weeks before the first wave of US sanctions against Iran kicks in, India on Wednesday made it clear that its bilateral relations with Tehran stand on their own and will not be influenced by its ties with any third country.
The assertion was made in the lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament, by Indian Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh while replying to a question on whether India will continue its economic relations with Iran in terms of both oil imports and investment in Chabahar Port in the wake of US sanctions against the Persian Gulf country.
The US has told India and other countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by Nov. 4 or face sanctions. The first set of US sanctions against Iran will kick in from August 6.
Iran is India’s third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tons of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (the first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18), Financial Tribune reported.
“India’s bilateral relations with Iran stand on their own and are not influenced by India’s relations with any third country,” Singh said in a written reply. “Government will take all necessary measures to safeguard our national interest.”
On the issue of US sanctions, India has been maintaining that it will go by what is in the country’s national interest. India and Iran held extensive talks on Monday on ways to deal with the impact of the sanctions and decided that both countries will maintain the momentum of mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation.
In May, the US administration pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal and brought back economic sanctions against Tehran.
Singh said India has maintained that the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved through dialogue by respecting Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. He said all parties should engage constructively to address and resolve issues that have arisen with respect to the Iran nuclear deal. Singh said India continues to monitor the developments and study the implications of the withdrawal of the US from the Iran deal.
His comments came a day after a high-level delegation from the US held crucial talks with Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale over the US sanctions against Iran, Indian news and media website Firstpost reported.
US Delegation to Meet Turkish Officials on Iran Sanctions
A US delegation of Treasury and State Department officials was scheduled to meet Turkish authorities on Friday to discuss sanctions targeting Iran, an official from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.
“A US delegation currently holding talks in India will be visiting Ankara on Friday regarding sanctions against Iran,” a foreign ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.
“The delegation will meet with related institutions, including from the foreign and finance ministries.”
A US Embassy spokesman confirmed that the talks would take place on Friday and focus on Iran sanctions.
A senior State Department official said last month Washington had told its allies to cut imports of Iranian oil by November—a call publicly resisted by Ankara.
“Iran is a good neighbor and we have economic ties. We are not going to cut off our trade ties with Iran because other countries told us so,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said three weeks ago.
Turkey, a NATO ally, is dependent on imports for almost all of its energy needs. In the first four months of this year, Turkey bought more than 3 million tons of crude oil from Iran, almost 55% of its total crude supplies, according to data from the Turkish energy watchdog.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the United States’ withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Ex-Indian Official Blames Iran for Chabahar Delays
Singh also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016 and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit here in February.
“In keeping with understandings reached during these visits, both sides are engaged in developing a long-term partnership in energy; deepening of trade and investment cooperation; and an early and full operations of Shahid Beheshti Port at Chabahar,” he said.
However, on Thursday, former foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, claimed that “a major reason for delay in execution of the Chabahar Port project was due to delays from the Iranian side”, Indian daily newspaper The Hindu reported.
In his first comments since stepping down from the post in January, Jaishankar said: “In the case of Chabahar, I know we always like to beat up on ourselves. But to be very honest a lot of the problems were because the Iranians kept changing the terms of the agreement. I mean they changed it in very fundamental ways at least about three times in the last three years.”
India, which sees Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti Port as a gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia, has committed $85 million on the current phase of construction, and a total of $500 million on the project.
On the delay in execution of projects by India in many countries, Jaishankar said often “the conceptualization of projects had been flawed”.
“If you look at where our projects haven’t done well, these are hardworking environments,” he said giving the example of Myanmar, where India is implementing the Kaladan multimodal transit transport project.
Despite looming US sanctions over oil imports from Iran, India has expressed confidence that the project would be operational by 2019.
President Rouhani inaugurated the first phase of Shahid Beheshti Port in the presence of some 70 visiting dignitaries from 17 countries in December.
The opening of the first phase (out of five phases defined for the project) has tripled its capacity to 8.5 million tons (equal to that of all the northern ports of the country) and will allow the docking of super-large container ships (100,000-120,000 DWT) and increase India’s connectivity with Afghanistan.
In February, Iran said it had agreed to lease operational control of Chabahar, located on the Sea of Oman, to India for 18 months.